It’s cliched, but with Dustin Pedroia, it’s absolutely apt: he gave it everything that he had.
Often, that was considerable. A Most Valuable Player Award in his second full season, 2008, which came on the heels of his Rookie of the Year campaign. And then there are the four Gold Gloves, his four All-Star game appearances, and his three World Series rings.
But in the end, everything he had simply wasn’t enough to get Pedroia back in the Red Sox lineup. That’s what a partial knee replacement will do to a guy. If you can’t run, you can’t play.
During Pedroia’s retirement news conference, held Monday on Zoom, he said that he played every game like it might be his last. And not just every Major League game, either. His philosophy, he said, dates back to his Little League days, and it’s one that we all do well to heed in whatever endeavor we pursue, and in every area of our lives.
Take nothing for granted; tomorrow is promised to no one.
Yes, it’s a shame that then-Orioles’ star Manny Machado’s slide in 2017 ushered in Pedroia’s premature end as a player while he was still very close to his prime. But, as Pedroia observed Monday, that kind of injury could have happened during his rookie season.
Indeed, Pedroia’s cup is more than half-full. It’s not unreasonable to argue that it has been overflowing for quite some time. When the club drafted him, the Red Sox had just won their first World Series title in 86 years. Today, thanks in large part to Pedroia and his infectious, winning attitude, they have three more championships.
Of all the great moments in Pedroia’s career, the one that stands out most in my mind is one that actually set in motion a Keystone Kops blunder that sent the BoSox to a crushing loss.
It’s Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, which is tied up at a game apiece. The Cardinals are threatening in the bottom of the ninth inning with the game tied at 4. The Sox infield is drawn in to cut down a potential runner at the plate.
As if on cue, the Cards’ Jon Jay slaps a sharp ground ball to the right of the mound. Pedroia spears it on a short hop after leaping to his right. He gets to his feet and lasers a perfect strike to Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to nab St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina at the plate.
From there, however, everything unravels.
First, third baseman Will Middlebrooks fails to catch a slightly errant throw from Saltalamacchia. Then, sprawled out on his stomach, Middlebrooks lifts his legs and trips the Cards’ already-gimpy runner, Allen Craig, as he frantically starts to scramble home. The third-base umpire rightfully rules obstruction, and though a throw beats Craig to the plate and Saltalamacchia applies the tag in time, Craig is awarded the winning run.
The scene isn’t complete without observing, in the immediate, chaotic aftermath, Pedroia lifting up his arms in befuddlement. Then, as the call sinks in, he drops his head and trudges off the field, crestfallen. Shave off his beard and trim 20 years from his age, and he’s a Little Leaguer glumly leaving the field on the short end of the stick. It’s quintessential Pedroia.
Of course, none of that craziness happens without Pedroia first making an extraordinary play in an extraordinarily crucial moment.
Fortunately for me and the rest of Red Sox Nation, Boston swept the next three contests to overcome the 2-1 Series deficit. And it has also been our great good fortune to see Pedroia bring his indefatigable grit and talent to the game for as long as he did.
Not only did his cup overflow, but so did that of every baseball fan–especially we Red Sox denizens. The passion that Pedroia exuded every time he took the field brought each of us back to those times when we, likewise, had the joy of playing the sport.
This column also appeared on February 2nd on the Boston Patch.